» Tuesday, May 4, 2004

Africa Commission

Asked if he would agree that the first meeting of the Africa Commission today was ‘too little too late’ in the light of the fact that it had taken the Prime Minister over two years to act on his pledge to help Africa, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said no. The Government’s record on aid to Africa and debt relief showed that we had been leading the way in helping the continent. The purpose of the Commission, half of whose members were African, was to look fundamentally and originally at the issues surrounding Africa and come up with a coherent report. It had the clear political backing of the Prime Minister and we hoped the report would be completed in time for the UK’s Presidency of both the G8 and the EU next year. There was a clear sign that progress had already been made in terms of the attitudes towards Africa we had seen in recent years in the G8, as well as elsewhere. It was important for us to pull those various strands together into a coherent approach. If the question being asked contained a suggestion that the job had not been completed, then that was something with which we would agree. That said, it was important not to underestimate what had already been achieved.

Asked if the reason for the delay was because the Prime Minister had been distracted by other matters, particularly Iraq, the PMOS said no. The premise of the question suggested that problems around the world could be listed neatly and simply. That was clearly not the case. It was important to deal with problems as and when they arose. Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terror had come about for reasons that were very well known. They had all had to be dealt with – just like Africa. The key was whether to build on the experience we had. That was precisely what we were trying to do with the Africa Commission.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news

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